Should the National Day Be Celebrated?
“Negaraku, tanah tumpahnya darahku…” is the first line of Malaysia’s National anthem, which directly translates into “my country, the land on which my blood was spilt”. As Malaysia’s Independence Day ( October 31st) is nearing, patriotic songs are ominous and streets are starting to be decked in the colors of the National Flag. Despite studying abroad, the patriotism running in my blood always peaks during this special occasion, when my fellow countrymen and I would hum along to the patriotic songs while feasting on local traditional cuisines at a Malaysian restaurant, despite being 700 kilometers away from home. This year, amidst the celebratory vibes, a question has surfaced. Does celebrating National Day, perhaps, come with negative effects also? If so, should we then continue celebrating our country’s birthday?
As we know, National Day serves as an annual booster jab to maintain the intensity of love and patriotism for our own respective countries. Oftentimes, we take for granted the people we live amongst, the provision of sufficient basic necessities, and the safe harbor we call home. We forget about the tears and toils that our pioneer generation has gone through to build this shelter of ours, which we undeservingly revel in. We complain about government policies, the transportation system, and how the taxes have been increasing exponentially. But not on National Day. In the 24 hours when we watch National Day Parades, listen to speeches of our country's leaders, and indulge in magnificent firework displays, we are once again reminded of the various aspects of our country that we should be grateful of. Historical exhibitions, for example, help retell forgotten stories and re-establish a sense of acknowledgment of the past challenges that our country has arduously overcome. Watching the National Guard and Military Parade is a physical reminder that we have been kept safe and our country kept secure, by the efforts of the trustworthy and capable heroes. Gathering with fellow countrymen of various races, religions, and family backgrounds to celebrate and sing reminds us that we have a bigger family, one that we can always fall back on no matter the circumstance. This is especially so for people who are staying overseas to work or study because it triggers a burning sense of belonging and attachment to our home-country. Despite being abroad, we stay loyal to and proud of our birth country. Hence, celebrating National Day reinforces our love and pride for our country. As they always say, there is no place like home.
Besides, National Day celebrations are the threads that sew citizens into a tight-knit community. In a country like Malaysia which is home to people of various ethnicities and cultures, misconceptions and prejudices are unavoidable, resulting from the lack of understanding and resulting in social tensions. However, through celebrating National Day, we consider ourselves as one united nation, embracing our differences and even taking pride in being a heterogeneous society. It is times like this when we look beyond our personal gains and seek to contribute to the greater good of our country. We put aside our differences and come together as one nation. When patriotic songs are played, they run like adrenaline through our veins, fuelling the yearning to put our arms around the people next to us and sing along. Having shared common experiences, spoken in the same national language, and craved for the same national delicacies, it is only natural for us to feel attached and belonged to our fellow compatriots. Undoubtedly, this reinforces our love for the citizens of our country, uniting us in one voice, one mind, and one heart.
Despite yielding such benefits, celebrating National Day could perhaps result in a social divide as well. Hypothetically, if everyone in the world believed that their country was the best, there would be social upheaval as we constantly argue and the battle for the title that we think our country should be crowned. Celebrating National Day is the result of us subconsciously dividing ourselves into ‘us’ and ‘them’, as in people of another country, hence drawing the line that segregates citizens from foreigners. This goes against the ideology to create an inclusive society around the world, no matter one’s country of birth. Xenophobia arises and discrimination against different nationalities emerges. If National Day were not celebrated, would it then mean that people across the globe would view ourselves as one collective community, instead of being labeled by our nationality? Would countries then not close their borders against migrants and foreigners to “protect citizen’s rights”? Would the world be a better place where war ends and peace reigns? We may never find out.
All things considered, we should be proud of the land we call our home. National Day is a joyous celebration that we should all commemorate because our country should be praised for its achievements while instilling in citizens a sense of affinity that drives us to further better our country. May all countries be lauded for their successes, and here’s wishing my home-country, Malaysia, a Happy National Day!
Photo by Bao Menglong on Unsplash
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